Analysis: As fighting in Gaza subsides, Israeli communities view each other with suspicion

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Two days after Hamas and Israel began launching rockets and airstrikes, the Israeli president called on a television station to implore his fellow Jews and the country’s Arab minority not to turn against the conflict.

Reuven Rivlin, who belongs to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, is proud that his learned father translated the Quran from Arabic to Hebrew.

“Please stop this madness,” he said on May 12. “We are endangered by the rockets being launched at our citizens and our streets, and we are dealing with an insane civil war between us.”

Community violence continued.

In the end, two people were killed – an Arab who died after being shot by Jews and a Jew who died after Arabs threw stones at him. Read more

And two days after Rivlin’s call, arsonists in the port city of Acre set fire to the Jewish-run Acco Theater Center, which forges cross-community alliances with performances in Arabic and Hebrew.

The manifestation of the tensions that have existed in Israeli society since the country’s birth in 1948 has left some wondering if, even after the end of Gaza-Israel hostilities, inter-communal suspicions could poison relations for years to come.

Visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the issue after meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

“Healing these wounds will require leadership at all levels,” he said. “There is still a lot of work to be done to restore hope, respect and some trust in communities.”

MIXED CITIES

In mixed Judeo-Arab cities like Haifa, Acre, Lod and Jaffa, memories of far-right Israelis shouting “Death to the Arabs!” and the young Arabs who drag people from the cars may take a long time to disappear.

For members of Israel’s Arab minority – who make up 21 percent of the population and are Israelis by citizenship but Palestinians by heritage and culture – it did not come out of nowhere.

Muslims, Druze or Christians, most are bilingual in Arabic and Hebrew, and many feel a sense of kinship with Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza.

This kinship has prompted some protesters – especially but not only young people – to proclaim a feeling of “Palestinian” and to reject the common Israeli term “Israeli-Arab”.

“We are Palestinians, not Israeli Arabs. The term ‘Arab Israelis’ was coined by Israel and its clients,” said Muhammad Kana’na, 56, who traveled 130 km south of his home in the north of Israel to demonstrate in East Jerusalem. .

Sense of community alienation increased in 2018 when Netanyahu’s government passed a “nation-state” law relegating the status of Arabic to an official language and declaring: “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and it has an exclusive right to self-determination in it “.

For Wadie Abu Nassar, an official with the Catholic Church in Haifa, tensions escalated on May 12 when he said his 23-year-old daughter was stoned by a crowd waving Israeli flags and her car was broken in scenes filmed by the family. “To believe or feel that I am a citizen who has no one to protect me is (an) extremely bad feeling that affects us all,” he told Reuters.

SOLDIER ATTACKED

Israel’s Arab minority mostly descends from Palestinians who lived under colonial-era Ottoman and British rule and who remained within the borders of what became the modern State of Israel in 1948. .

But their kinship with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and the fact that most do not serve in the IDF, lead some Israelis to view them with suspicion, especially from the far right.

During Ramadan, videos on social media purporting to show Palestinian youths assaulting ultra-Orthodox Jews sparked protests from Israelis. Then an Israeli soldier was attacked in Jaffa on May 13, suffering from a fractured skull.

“The relationships and the hardships that have been created by this violence – both on the Jewish side and on the Arab side – are going to last a long time,” said Ricki Lieberman, 74, who lives in Jaffa because it is a mixed area.

Under normal circumstances, the Palestinian flag is rarely seen in public in Israeli cities, and in East Jerusalem, the police usually take it down quickly.

In recent weeks, it has been organized by Palestinian youths protesting around Al-Aqsa Mosque, raised at funerals in Arab towns in Israel and carried by cars driven by Palestinian youth in convoys past police stations. in East Jerusalem.

The idea of ​​unity was captured by an online notice calling for a general strike on May 18 in Arab towns in Israel and Palestinian towns in the West Bank, with posts on social media calling for solidarity “from the sea ​​to the river ”.

POLICE RESPONSE

Inter-communal violence, the strike and anger over an 11-day barrage of rockets from Gaza angered and baffled many Israelis.

Monica Paz, an Israeli trader in Jaffa, said she had to flee the city.

“The rockets weren’t the main problem, it was the violence in Jaffa.”

President Rivlin condemned the actions of the Israeli minority.

“To bring down the Israeli flag by Arab rioters and replace it with the Palestinian flag is a brutal assault on the common existence in the State of Israel,” he said.

On Sunday, the Israeli police announced that they would deploy thousands of security forces to search “suspected rioters, criminals and all those who participated in recent events in order to bring them to justice.”

Israeli police said that of 1,550 arrests made to date, around 75% were Arabs, but spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the focus was on “preventing and responding to riots and unrest.” The majority of the incidents … were Israeli Arab residents attacking. police and civilians set fire to vehicles and damaged public property. In response to incidents also from individuals in the Jewish community, arrests were made. “

Sami Abu Shehadeh, an Israeli lawmaker from the minority community, called the crackdown a “campaign of mass arrests against hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel.”

A May 16 opinion poll on intercommunal violence conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found cause for optimism.

He revealed that nearly 60% of Jewish Israelis strongly opposed violence against Arab citizens, and 73% of Arabs agreed that the two communities could live together in peace.

Ahmad Nasr, 35, who called himself a Palestinian Arab, said he distinguished between personal ties and people’s relationship to the state.

“Relations will improve in the end – between people, not between the state and us Palestinians,” said Nasr, of Baqa al-Gharbiyya. “Between peoples, for work and shared interests. With the State, it will remain a problem.”

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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